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Good Shepherd needs additional help

By Ed Brock

ebrock@news-daily.com

Sue Kelley is one of the patients at the Good Shepherd's Clinic who has been benefiting from the clinic's expanded hours.

For a year now she's been going to the free clinic which is in a converted house behind the First Baptist Church of Morrow for treatment for heart problems, diabetes and more. Like the other patients, Kelley doesn't have medical insurance that covers the cost of the treatment.

"There are a lot of people who go there, and they're real good," said 63-year-old Kelley.

Now the clinic needs some help from the people in the community.

Recently the clinic expanded its hours from one day a week to being open from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays and from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, said the Rev. Stephen Cook with First Baptist Church. That means more people will be seen, but that also means more money is needed.

"While our contributions have been up over last year they still haven been enough to cover the extra expenses," Cook said.

The clinic needs $25,000 to get it through the next two months of operation. And Cook said that by August it will not have the money to pay Dr. D. Ann Travis, the Good Shepherd's new medical director and lead physician.

In all of 2004, during which the clinic was only open on Mondays, 676 patients came into the Good Shepherd. Through May of this year the clinic has already seen 920 patients, said Della Lago, the clinic's administrator.

Local civic groups and other members of the community have been very generous in showing their support, as have the volunteers who work at the clinic, Lago said.

"But when you hire staff like we do and pay insurance for a physician, it's very expensive," Lago said.

Even more people may be willing to help if they really knew what the clinic does, Lago added.

"I don't think enough people in the community really understand the need this fills. This is their neighbors and their friends," Lago said. "Every time we open someone says 'You saved my life, I was able to go back to work.' Statements like that that sound so grandiose, we hear those every day."

Along with financial contributions, Cook said, the clinic really needs to expand its base of volunteer physicians who come to the clinic on their own time to treat patients. If the shortfall isn't met they may have to adjust their hours, setting back plans to keep the clinic open five days a week.

For the past year the clinic's sponsors have stepped up their fundraising efforts with an eye toward achieving that five-day a week goal. Along with the second annual "Tomato Sandwich Party" hosted by Good Shepherd board member Jim Wood that raised $19,400, the sponsors inaugurated a bicycle ride benefit in September.

The Tomato Sandwich party will be held again on Aug. 6 and Kroger grocery stores are still selling gift cards of $20, $50 and $100 and 5 percent of the amount of a purchase made with the cards goes to the clinic.

The clinic, which has been in operation since 2000, also receives funding from the Clayton County Community Foundation, the Presbyterian Church of Greater Atlanta and local churches and civic clubs.